Monday, May 5, 2008

PART ONE -- So Inherently Hearers -- Agonies/Paroxysms Upon Happiness & Other Diminishing Returns

Man's quest for certainty is, in the last analysis, a quest for meaning. But the meaning lies within himself rather than in the void he has vainly searched for portents since antiquity. --Loren Eisley

"If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well." -- Rainer Maria Rilke


This is Part One of a two part essay. Part Two is almost finished and will be posted soon. You may click on the above photo of an art installation in Mexico City, January 2008 to enlarge it.

To read PART TWO click here:


1382, "mental suffering" (esp. that of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane), from L.L. agonia, from Gk. agonia "a (mental) struggle for victory," originally "a struggle for victory in the games," from agon "assembly for a contest," from agein "to lead" (see act). Sense of "extreme bodily suffering" first recorded 1607. Agonize (1583) was originally transitive as well as intrans., and sometimes meant "to torture."

"sudden attack, convulsion," 1577, from M.Fr. paroxysme (16c.), earlier paroxime (13c.), from M.L. paroxysmus "irritation, fit of a disease," from Gk. paroxysmos, from paroxynein "to irritate, goad" from para- "beyond" + oxynein "sharpen, goad," from oxys "sharp, pointed"


"Not because happiness really exists,
that premature profit of imminent loss."

-- from "The First Elegy" of The Duino Elegies (DE throughout the rest of the text) by Rainer Maria Rilke

"...that life is real only in proportion to its difficulty."

--page 103, DE

"We live in an old chaos of the sun."

--page 70, from "Sunday Morning" by Wallace Stevens from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.


Recently upon entering my office a male client collapsed on the couch loudly lamenting the pain of his existence, the meaningless struggle to continue to go on living while trying to make art and a decent monetary wage when every effort seemed to die still-born upon taking acts to create and relate authentically to himself and others. In his early 30's, the powerful daimon of his life, the inner tyro/tyrant, the Elan Vital (vital life force), his Essence, tormented him in an agonizing whirlwind of compulsions and drives of creativity, powerful Urges strong in him manifesting as relentless sexual desire and an unending preoccupation with the creative act, his art and all living in between lived in the context of "the Demand."

This Urge calls to him, appeals to him "NOW!" to be made manifest, incarnated, a Thing, an object which exist arriving from creative/destructive acts. That he can barely contain and canalize this force of nature within and around him appealing to him for response both surprises and exasperates him in his violent swings between grandiosity and self-hatred, between feelings of being gifted and feelings of being tremendously lacking and inadequate, all this urging him on in varying degrees to creativity and destruction, artistry and addiction, expression and compulsion, a veritable agony and ect-tomy ('ect' means "to cut out/to cut away, to remove") with fleeting simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting ecstasy which does not stay but opens, alas, even greater chasms of emptiness and hunger within him thus compelling him on to more grasping at the elusive happiness he seeks.

Contemporary psychology would say my client is an addict (sexually, drugs and alcohol abuse) and in the context of various psychological models it is descriptively true. However, as a Jungian oriented counselor I would say that his behaviors and compulsions are soul expressions and I seek to understand them as such. I listen beneath and above and between the words and the wild hurling hurt to hear soul/psyche speaking, screaming.

He sprawls splay-limbed upon the therapy couch, hands opened stiffly, straining toward me and the ceiling for some surcease and succor pleading for the answer, the secret, the key, the code, the scientific/mental/spiritual formula which, when possessed at last, will cease his ongoing circulating torments, the daimon will finally be appeased and satiated. His existence will then flow happily into an eternal spring, summer and autumn in a bounteous planting and harvest of creativity and contentment, passion and glowing reputation, of sexual, emotional, artistic and professional satisfaction.

And there will be lots of money.

And there will be no winter!!

He longs to be as a poet friend of mine, Lowery McClendon, wrote in a poem of his youth, "crotch happy and dog dreaming."

Carl Jung and His Daimon

To understand what I mean by my client's daimon I refer to Carl Jung's autobiography, Memories, Dream, Reflections, the last chapter titled, Retrospect. Written just a few years before Jung died he is looking back over his life and reflecting:

"I have had much trouble getting along with my ideas. There was a daimon in me, and in the end its presense proved to be decisive. It overpowered me, and if I was at times ruthless it was because I was in the grip of the daimon. I could never stop at anything once attained. I had to hasten on, to catch up with my vision. Since my contemporaries, understandably, could not perceive my vision, they saw only a fool rushing ahead.

I have offended many people, for as soon as I saw that they did not understand me, that was the end of the matter so far as I was concerned. I had to move on. I had no patience with people--aside from my patients. I had to obey an inner law which was imposed on me and left me no freedom of choice...

...A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon....The lack of freedom has been a great sorrow to me...Perhaps I might say: I need people to a higher degree than others, and at the same time much less. When the daimon is at work, one is always too close and too far. Only when it is silent can one achieve moderation.

The daimon of creativity has ruthlessly had its way with me. The ordinary undertakings I planned usually had the worst of it--though not always and not everywhere.

--All quotes are from Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the last chapter, Retrospect, Vintage Books, 1963.

Refusing the Call

Not only explicitly creative people have a daimon. Every person alive has a daimon but not every person consciously responds to it. Not many do. The daimon then shows up as dreams, nightmares, symptoms, synchronicities, occult phenomena and events, accidents, outter events, places, addictions, other people and more in order to call attention to its presense which demands attention, action and response. Joseph Campbell speaks of "refusing the Call," that inner urge or voice or tug which manifest in a person's life which has in it the "entelechy," the unique essense of a person as well as the tendencies of their personal myth. Some individuals can dampen the daimon to such an extent that it is a tragic loss for they never respond to "the Call." If one does respond there is no guarantee of success or happiness but in responding one lives a life "in the teeth" of existence and goes one's own way, individuating and, as Jung reports, with meaningful suffering. I'll speak further on of the suffering of God in our personal suffering.

Reductive, personalistic psychologies (Freud and post-Freudian therapies and their spin-offs, body oriented therapies, and much New Age psychology along with others) attend to personal history looking for historical causes of suffering and much can be learned and possibly changed in the individual from these approaches. But they see only symptoms and not the symbolic nature of them. I certainly utilize personalistic approaches and their insights but my primary hold is Jungian. I understand symptoms to not only indicate personal history and causations but also seek the symbolic, the archetypal referent in the symptom which locates the suffering in a greater continuum of purpose and meaning.

Jung has said that we take too much responsibility for our suffering. He calls it our "god almightiness," our inflated view of ourselves as "masters of our fate and captains of our soul." His entire life was set on discovering and verifying the transpersonal factors involved in every individual's life as evidenced in dreams and other archetypal material. Like Job, Jung found that much of our suffering is inflicted by forces greater than ourselves through no fault of our own, archetypal forces, God, Gods, Goddesses, to use theological language . Understand that when Jung uses theological words he uses them psychologically and not metaphysically. He speaks of "god-images" for these are verbal and visual records of humanity's relationship to and evolving views of that intuition of something greater than humans depicted throughout human history. Most certainly humans today know as our ancestors knew of natural forces much greater than ourselves. As I write this a volcano is erupting in Chile and a monsoon has devastated Burma. These are events which evoke dread and awe and thus from earliest humans to now we register these experiences numinously which means they are frought with sacrality (not the light fluffly Cloud Cuckoo Land sentiment that so often passes for the sacred today). That there is an innate factor within humans which is religious-by-Nature is proven by Jung's lifelong researches.

Wrestling with Daimons , Jung's Words on Failure, Errors and Mistakes,

When I speak to my clients of their daimon many feel tremendous relief to know that their sufferings in part are not merely or necessarily from defaults of infancy and childhood, flaws of character and morality. Their struggles are more, shall I say, Biblical in the sense of the Old Testament story of Jacob having a long night of destiny where he wrestled with his eesh, often translated and mostly understood as an angel but this force or tyro is more akin to the daimon Jung describes. It, like Jacob's eesh, is driven and can at times be violent, heedless of the individual's personal life and obligations. Jung at times refused the daimon's demands reminding it that he had a family, clients, friends, needed to recreate and rest, etc. He needed to be ordinary. From Jung we learn that one can consciously resist the daimon without refusing its Call to grow and create.

It is important to understand that the daimon needs us as much as we need it. Each individual is a vessel, the eyes, hands, arms, feet, body action, thought and expression of the daimon. This force of nature is amoral in character and is what James Hillman calls a "psychic insistency." Psyche means soul and as such the soul/psyche urges and insists from personal and transpersonal depths on being lived, developed, evolved, expressed by any means necessary. This is the daimon which serves the sacred mysterious power within each individual, what Jung calls the Self. Here the word sacred does not mean bliss, ecstasy, sweetness and light alone but also struggle, darkness, pain, primal emotions and the Shadow, human and divine. The Shadow is sacred. Sacred does not exclude or shut out any part of Nature or human nature. "The courage to be," to borrow existential theologian Paul Tillich's expression, entails struggle, growth and setback and at times failure. Failure is not necessarily derived from inadequacy and flaws, faults and defaults. There is failure as Fate. Fate is part of character (see my explication of the word character further on in this essay. Also see the section titled Character as Fate in Ernest Becker's brilliant pulitzer prize winning book, The Denial of Death). Jung speaks of the failure of Jesus Christ in the last talk he gave in the United States, speaking eloquently of errors and mistakes. Some of that talk is worth quoting at length here:

"Jesus, you know, was a boy born of an unmarried mother. Such a boy is called illegitimate, and there is a prejudice which puts him at a great disadvantage. He suffers from a terrible feeling of inferiority for which he is certain to have to compensate. Hence the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, in that the kingdom was offered to him. Here he met his worst enemy, the power devil; but he was able to see that, and to refuse. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world." But "kingdom" it was, all the same. And you remember that strange incident, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The utter failure came at the Crucifixion in the tragic words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" If you want to understand the full tragedy of those words you must realize what they meant: Christ saw that his whole life, devoted to truth according to his best conviction, had been a terrible illusion. He had lived it to the full absolutely sincerely, he had made his honest experiment, but it was nevertheless a compensation. On the Cross his mission deserted him. But because he had lived so fully and devotedly he won through to the Resurrection body.

We must all do just what Christ did. We must make our experiment. We must make mistakes. We must live out our own vision of life. And there will be error. If you avoid error you do not live; in a sense even it may be said that every life is a mistake, for no one has found the truth. When we live like this we know Christ as a brother, and God indeed becomes man. This sounds like a terrible blasphemy, but not so. For then only can we understand Christ as he would want to be understood, as a fellow man; then only does God become man in ourselves.

...And so the last thing I would say to each of you, my friends, is: Carry through your life as well as you can, even if it is based on error, because life has to be undone, and one often gets to truth through error. Then, like Christ, you will have accomplished your experiment. So, be human, seek understanding, seek insight, and make your hypothesis, your philosophy of life. Then we may recognize the Spirit alive in the unconscious of every individual. The we become brothers of Christ."

--pages 97/98, from C.G. Jung Speaking, the talk entitled,"Is Analytical Psychology a Religion?" Princeton University Press, 1977.

Individuation, Hillman's "Force of Character," Individuation and the Pathologizing Soul

Life with the daimon is a painful struggle as Jung attests yet it does not exclude happiness, joy, ecstasy and bliss but these among many other emotionally toned experiences are impermanent states of being, expressions of a spectrum of vitalizing emotions from light to dark. The goal, says Jung, is not happiness (not excluding it either; Jung's laughter was renowned and it is said that sometimes strangers would follow the laughter they heard to see just who this person was so capable of such laughter). The goal is individuation, the individual's awakening to the fact that there are two centers in the human psyche, the ego, and that other which is greater than the ego, the Self, that central organizing, ultimately mysterious factor/force from which the ego emerges. Jung uses the term Self borrowing from Hinduism's term “Atman” (pronounced in Sanskrit like “Atma”) which is interpreted as the “Main Essence” of man, as his Highest Self. It is the immortal aspect of the mortal existence. The ego serves the Self and the Self is served by incarnating uniquely and consciously in each individual. The Self is already there but it remains unconscious within. The process of individuation is in the ego awakening to the Presense of the Self and in awakening the Self by the ego's conscious relating to It. The daimon serves this process in the further growth of consciousness in both the ego and the Self. The suffering of individuation then is not only human suffering but also, profoundly, the suffering of the Self, of God. (click here for a good explication of Atman/Self:

James Hillman, founder of archetypal psycholgy, writes about the daimon extensively in his book, Force of Character. The word choice of force is accurately chosen for the daimon is indeed a force and most of us are forced to grow and develop in areas and ways we would never volutarily choose. Note my explication of the word character in the paragraphs below regarding Gabriel Marcel. You will see how Hillman's title is very fitting to his elucidation of life with the daimon and its effect upon our character. Jung's account of his life with the daimon clearly describes the painful impact of its force and power on a person's fate and face. Hillman speaks of psychology and science as well as religions' attempts "to get the upper hand on fate and therefore to constrain the soul." (page 59, The Blue Fire).

In his book, The Blue Fire, Hillman says that "of its nature the soul pathologizes. That is to say, it gets us in trouble, it interferes with the smooth running of life, it obstructs attempts to understand, and it seems to make relationships impossible. It also makes us see perversely." Undertanding and accepting this tendency of the psyche/soul to pathologize, make trouble and obstruct can relieve us from the burden of total responsibility. Trouble, if you will, to paraphrase Hillman (and Jung who I mentioned above says that we humans take too much responsibility for our ills and unhappiness) is inherent in the psyche/soul. Pathologies are the soul's meat and drink. The gods and goddesses, daimones all, "come to us" unbidden from within the soul yet much of magic, science and religion throughout history and even more presently are designed to "work on the gods rather than recognizing their workings in us. We reach too far, missing the daimones that are present everyday, and each night, too. Plotinus said, "It is for them to come to me, not for me to come to them."

In a sense, says Hillman, there is no cure of souls for the very nature of soul is trouble, pathologies, gods, goddesses, daimones who do come unbidden, who traumatize us while we egocentrically think it is something we have or have not done or something that is done unto us which creates the trouble. This is common and most of us assume that we have somehow consciously or unconsciously incurred the event and are responsible for it. If we can only root out that thought or deed or past life then it won't occur again. This is god-almightiness indeed and extremely inflated. It is also child mind, primal mind of the ancestors who assume that these encounters with the gods, the volcano, the hurricane, etc., are our fault thus we throw virgins into volcanos and young warriors into deep wells to appease and reap rewards. This thinking has become so finely tuned in much of New Thought and New Age that it bears serious critical study as it engenders dangerous and often disastrous inflation.

While not absolving humans of responsibility Hillman's insight derived from Jung frees us up to take ourselves on one level much less seriously all while seriously playing the game of life. Recall Jung's reputation for amazingly delightful joyous laughter as mentioned above. A sense of humor, often dark and delicious full of the fractured, frought, fierce, fumbling and frail can assuage mal humours in the most awful situations. Gallows humor: the soul is there. I'll speak at much greater length below on response and responsibity, of an imperative in the "trouble" of the soul, and of the daimon which seeks and demands response.

Lunching With the Daimon

Just a few hours before my distraught client arrived for his session I had been in one of the local cafes, my "second offices" as I refer to them. That very morning I had lamented like my client similarly into my dark and bitter espresso and my journal. I am at least 20 years older than my client with more living and writhing tithing blood and flesh to the daimon under my ever expanding belt. I, too, wrestle with the daimon of perpetual insistencies, compulsions, demands to create, to express, and to rest in afterglow and everglitch for awhile from its ceaseless grip. Yet when I do find a bit of quiet, a parenthesis in the high pitching sea of its scratch and scream for my attention I find that I miss it and do not quite know myself when out of its searching gaze and searing grip. I find that I miss the teeth and tear of it, of creating and the created, dare I say, of the Creator, that primal force within, behind, beneath and yet separate from all things (see Kabbalah for centuries of excavation of this paradox of the hidden and revealed Creator in and in between the imaginal gap between Itself and Its creation. Thanks to Shirah Kober Zeller with whom I was most privileged to study for her brilliant teaching of Kabbalah with insights from psychology).

Happiness, often experienced as a cessation or stilling of powerful destructive/creative forces (thanks to W.R. Bion and Michael Eigen for their compassionate and brilliant explications and revelations of destructive/creative forces in the psychic/soul life of humans) is not the integrative experience my soul longs for afterall. Sufi poets, Old Testament poets, poets of all world traditions from ancient of days to the present all know this drive and longing in the midst of conflicting crushing life for some mirroring, windowing, winnowing, wooing, winning, containing, and sheltering Other/other who will make meaningful our days and daze. When I and the Other/other inevitably fail and disappoint the longing and urging increases, the compulsions, repulsions, expulsions, propulsions and impulsions repeat in their wrenching yet rendering dialectic of an intuition which hints at some essential and existentially present and sustaining meaning within this "old chaos of the sun."

The daimon is never happy. The daimon is not content with "the Answer," "the Secret," "the Key," "the Code," "the Encounter of Encounters," "the Scientific Method," etc., and yet these are not false but are, rather, fingers which point toward some ever elusive yet Real Thing which we hope brings us into more authentically creative and satisfying existence. In a journal note Thomas Merton writes, "My heart yearns for its Referent." The daimon yearns for its Referent, too, and refers us, burns and yearns us, toward each our Referent. To be is to be refered. Between the daimon and ourselves there is no referee though Reference aplenty.

As I write of the struggle with the daimon and the daimon of struggle I am minded of the Bill Moyer interview with Joseph Campbell where he tells a story of a drunken brawl involving many people in a bar in Ireland. Campbell is illustrating the healthy need to get out into life and grapple with it, to not be a victim of life but instead to join in the fray of living and "throw some punches": A man walking down a street near a busy and popular bar saw someone pitched headlong through the bar door into the street. Excitedly the man ran into the bar filled with bedlam and all its patrons fighting, found one of the battered and bleeding brawlers and hopefully asked, "Is this a private fight or can anybody join in?"

There is something to rising to the battle, the struggle, and taking delight in it. One learns to choose one's battles but sometimes the fight comes to us. A good fight is a good fight. Did not St. Paul encourage those of the new Christian religion "to fight the good fight" which for Paul was a fight with the daimon of zealotry. Jung writes movingly of Saul of Tarsus who was fated to became Paul and how he followed his daimon (Jung calls it libido, not Freud's narrow use of the word for sexual libido. When Jung uses the term he means the powerful demanding life force manifesting personally) at first obeying it by persecuting the new Christian sect. Had he not followed the daimon's prompting to persecute he would never have had his life changing mystical encounter with the Christ on the road to Damascus where Saul became Paul, he and his daimon almost single handedly founding the early Christian church which bears much of his response to the mighty appeal within him to this very present day. I'm sure Paul nor many would agree with my stating it this way. The daimon of zealotry continued in Paul long after Saul was left "dead" and blind on the Damascan road.

Living the Questions, Dying in the Them, Ego-cide, Godot

Thus in the cafe, post-lament into my journal while the perplexed-at-my-dour-look waiter delivered yet another double espresso, in the soul-ache I waited staring at the street traffic full of the question, the perpetual question of meaningful existence in this indubitable erstwhile veil of tears, weltschmertz (German for 'world woe'), pain, disappointment and sorrow. I puzzled, too, on the pleasure I feel in pondering upon, floundering in and experiencing the question. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke urged a young poet in the midst of his suffering the pangs of mental and physical existence to not seek answers too quickly but, rather, "to live the questions" (see Letters To A Young Poet) for in them one deepens in contact with mystery, grows familiarity and facility with not knowing which individuates one, or potentially does, though too many people have literally died in and from the long no answer, from the waiting, waiting. The Biblical Psalmist laments, "How long, O Lord? How long?" Rilke in his Elegies cries, "Ought not these oldest sufferings of our to be yielding more fruit by now?" And there is death in each question and one can indeed die in them.

Jungian analyst, David Rosen, in his book Transforming Depression speaks of consciously commiting ego-cide rather than suicide. Suicide is absolutely final and resolves nothing that the individual's psyche/soul is painfully birthing into being or trying to. In ego-cide parts of self, ego parts, die so other much needed parts can emerge and live. By diving into the questions of existence the potential for some rebirth into presense with just what is, the givens of human existence in a material and mental universe, are there. Meaningful living and struggling may happen. The etymology of the word happen is shared with the word happiness in that both words are related to 'luck, chance' (see etymology below this text), thus there is in living, and dying, in the question of existence the potential for luckily happening upon, and by chance (including synchronicity which is meaningful chance) Presense and ways to be present with Being and Becoming in the face of non-being and Death. Presense happens, an event in which for it to happen one must literally show up, be there and, yes, often, enduringly so as in Samual Beckett's play Waiting For Godot, wait. The very pondering and feeling of these questions and notations-in-the-waiting, tentatively glyphing toward ever changing and evolving meaning and experience of meaning, can bring a kind of fullness, a kind of pleasure, dare I say happiness derived from perceiving oneself being articulated from the inarticulate pains and strivings of the heart, mind and body framed and formed by the lived question driven by the heart yearn for Reference.

Homo Viator, With-ness, Scaracter, Human Exigencies

Gabriel Marcel, Christian existentialist of the last century, says that rather than being homo sapiens, human knowers, humans are homo viator meaning, humans on the way, passing through. I recalled this as I sat with the espresso cup in my shaking hands remembering Marcel from my Calvinist Christian college days and the attendant agonies of questions therein them, of reading his book Homo Viator and finding from it some nascent ways to begin to crawl back into my skin, into being on the way, traveling, trevailing, unraveling and unveiling the elusive self, the witness, which observes it all. Witness means with-ness, being with with being in existence, being with the questions, being with self and with others, being with my unhappy client. By living the questions on the way to being, while becoming, one bears witness to existence in all of its spectrum of agonies and glories. We are shaped by what we must bear with-ness to, by what we must be with all too often and this shaping from being in and with and for existence forms what is in psychology called character whose etymology literally means "scratches upon a surface." In other words, scars -- scar-acter.

The contemporary American poet, Wendell Berry, in a poem titled, The Sycamore, speaks of an old sycamore tree which in its long living in one place and "bears the scars of its wounds healed over...there is no year it has lived in that has not harmed it." This tree has character, so much so that Berry limns a stunning poem describing it and in so doing describes ourselves bearing the scars of being wherein there is no year we have lived in that has not harmed us. It is an individuation poem.

A Daimonic Confession: The Exigential Question Does Not Settle Too Long for My Fluff

"A secret that can be told is no secret...the misuse of the secret...suggests an inflation following the ego's identification with an archetypal image. If the transpersonal energies are not perceived as secret and sacred they will be channeled into personal ends and have destructive effects." -- Edward Edinger

With Marcel's book I could begin to own my young dispair and the pathologies which are my soul as a result of Marcel's salvific insight into what he calls human exigencies, urgencies, demands with which human existence is laden. These push, haul, explode me out of collective hibbity-glibbity, complacent, Hallmark card-like, spiritually materialistic, patchwork confections of pirated spiritualities, techniques, psychologies, philosophies, gimics and formulas reduced to psycho-sanctimonious presentiments and presentations regarding being here in existence in the external and inner world. My daimon no longer allow me to rest on my ivy laced laurels pitching "namastes" and "praise the Lords" in a kind of spiritual tourrettes which may pass for being in the folds of the enlightened and brightened. Been there. Done that. Undoing it now and ongoingly.

When I understood then at the Christian college though barely but enough, enough, and remember now that in the very fabric of existence are exigencies, urgencies, demands, and many of them instinctual, I knew that I could then continue to more authentically explore what was then nascently and now more clearly apparent regarding my personal Vocation, that of being a man on his way, a wrestler with those exigencies, personal, social and transpersonal, making and exacting their demands from my mere existence. As Rilke says in the Ninth Elegy, "Being here amounts to so much, because all this Here and Now, so fleeting, seems to require us and strangely concerns us."

Here in Marcel I discover and recover again, and own, the exigencies, the urgings, the demands of being and becoming. In the exigencies I discover what Marcel and others call "the appeal in existence," "existence as appeal." There is a demand, a Call, an Appeal. To exist is to be the appeal as well as he who responds to the appeal. It may be any of the myriad human responses. In speaking just now of my sense of personal Vocation derived from the experienced arrival and dawning understanding of the significance of Marcel's human exigencies I recall that the very word vocation has the word voice in it which implies that there is a Voice calling which evokes my authentic evolving self which requires a continuing response to That which is heard. Again, Vocation is to be called and to hear and act in response from within that evocation one is ongoingly becoming. I respond humanly, imperfectly, with grace and grit, yes, and with disgrace and shit which the infinite, boundless Container can hold even if I do so so often very badly. Heaven/hell, warring capacities all having equal value and voice in Being's audacity to live my little life as response to It's very contradictions in all its exigencies.

Rainer Maria Rilke in his Elegies eloquently describes this hearing and this response:

"Voices, voices. Hear, O my heart, as only
saints have heard: heard till the giant-call
lifted them off the ground; yet they went impossibly
on with their kneeling, in undistracted attention:
so inherently hearers...but hark to the suspiration,
the uninterrupted news that grows out of silence."

We are so inherently hearers of the exigencies as uninterrupted appeals of existence. And in hearing the appeals we must respond. For me that hearing and response led and continually leads me in my ongoing unfolding vocation of being a man on his way in a universe which appears, too, to be on its way.

Existence as Response

Here F.H. Heinemann, existentialist philosopher and writer, in his still timely book, Existentialism and the Human Predicament, published in 1959 speaks to this urging within existence for human response. The last chapter of the book is called, Respondeo, Ergo Sum; translated it means, I respond, therefore I am. Because this speaks so much to the question of being which includes the problem of pain/happiness I happily quote extensively from the book:

"...I formulate the first principle as Respondeo, ergo sum...I am in so far as I respond. I arise on all levels of my being (body, sense organs, soul and mind) only by responding. Man comes into being by an act of response; his evolution consists of interrelated and complicated acts of response. As long as he is alive he responds...Man's position in the Universe is unique in that he, as a responding being, becomes answerable for his actions. This is the moral aspect of his freedom. Respondeo, ergo sum now means that I am in so far as I accept responsibility for my actions...Finally, our key-symbol (Respondeo, ergo sum) allows us to understand religion. Man is the only being able to respond to stimuli outside the "world" of animals. Man alone responds to God, speaks with God, and prays to God. This fact gives us the clue for understanding religion and the mystics without forcing us to admit the claim of the mystics to experience ultimate reality. The hypothesis of religion is based on a specific type of responsiveness of the spiritual center of man to the Transcendent, i.e. to powers transcending the sphere of sense-experience. Religion is not based on a feeling of dependence (Schleiermacher), nor is it "the knowledge of the Absolute in a finite consciousness" (Hegel). It is based on a response to the Absolute which has the power of elevating man above the misery of earthly turmoil and redeeming him. What matters is the manner in which we respond, not whether God answers or not...

This is the paradox of the human condition. Living in complete insecurity under the constant menace of annihilation, we experience the unreliability of human institutions and the instability of all finite objects. In our dispair we are inclined to doubt everything, even God's existence, of whom we cannot and shall not make an image [Heinemann is certainly NOT a Jungian. See my words above regarding Jung and the "god-image" in the section, Carl Jung and His Daimon.]. But at the height of our suffering, when everything seems to break down, suddenly we find ourselves confronted with an unconditional request [the appeal, the exigency, the daimon's drive -- Warren] which we have to answer. In such moments we experience God ['God' here meaning that from and in which we derive Ultimate Meaning for existence, our existence, not necessarily a metaphysical being which ontologically exists--Warren], and we learn that it is we who have to respond. We have to find our affirmation, which as a personal truth becomes objective if in very fact it be the right answer to the transcendent call [appeal, Rilke's "uninterruped news" -- Warren] in this specific situation. It is we who have to do those actions without which the eternal Light cannot conquer the forces of darkness...

Existence is a subjectively-regulative idea; for it brings unity into the chaos of our personal a general imperative it says, "Your responses shall be existential!" "Within all spheres of our being you shall act in such a manner that you exist in and through your answers!" "Reply [to the appeal, the exigency, the daimon] with absolute responsibility in the face of God!" "Answer so that you mirror the Universe in your specific way from your point of view!"...Existence as appeal is therefore preserved...the postulate to become existential in thought and action concerns everybody. An existential philosopher is one whose thought is action. Consequently he exists in his action-responses and in these creates himself and his world. He lives up to Fichte's statement: "Philosophy is a transformation, regeneration and renewal of the spirit in its deepest root: the emergence of a new organ and, with it, of a new world in the flux of time."

--All quotes here are from the last chapter in F.H. Heinemann's book named above.

Harkening To The Suspiration and
Harkening As Response

Paying my bill at the cafe I returned home more oriented in a "new/old world in the flux of time." I felt full not only from my meal but from my outpouring woes into the journal and the subsequent waiting and musing and refusing to be easily or quickly comforted. The session hour arrived and in spilled my client as reported above. I was concerned but recognized the synchronicity of his outpourings, the themes similar to mine, and thus I sat open and disposed to him keenly interested in just how he and I would be together in his very real pain regarding his apparently meaningless struggle to live and create. I sat on my urge to report that I had just been writhing around the same issues a few hours before and thus have I arrived regarding soul pathology, daimons, Rilke and "living the questions," (I know that I would have punched someone in the teeth if they had spouted "live the questions" to me in the midst of my experience of what D.W. Winnicott accurately describes as "unspeakable agonies and primitive terrors"!), powerful destructive/creative forces, ego-cide, Godot, waiting, homo viator, witness/withness, scaracter, human exigencies and their demand for response, respondeo, ergo sum, and inner and outter voices which appeal to us and when heard and responded to evoke in us Vocation along the way. I sat on all that. I tried to be present, being with and for him in his great pain. I did not seek to make him happy nor to increase his suffering. I let him empty and go on emptying himself into the space we were in, in the space which I try to become, actively open, receptive, present. My verbal responses were minimal. I deepened my breathing in order to become present in the ground of being and to ground myself solidly in the space we were together in. He emptied. And emptied more. Then grew silent. He relaxed though he was not required to relax. He lay on the couch and breathed. I said, "That's right...let the couch hold you. Have the option to not hold on let go and let yourself be held. Feel the support of the couch. And just breathe." And he did that. And I breathed, too.

I offered no solutions or formulas and I kept the Rilke books on the shelf. Some other time perhaps. We booked the next appointment. When he left I pulled the Duino Elegies from the bookshelf and read these words:

Fling the emptiness out of your arms
into the spaces we breathe--maybe that the birds
will feel the extended air in more intimate flight. --page 21/22

"Voices, voices. Hear, O my heart...but hark to the suspiration,
the uninterrupted news that grows out of silence." --page 23

Click here for Part Two:


hap c.1205, "chance, luck," from O.N. happ "chance, good luck," from P.Gmc. *khapan (source of O.E. gehæp "convenient, fit"). Meaning "good fortune" is from c.1225.

happen c.1300, happenen "to come to pass, occur," originally "occur by hap" (see hap); replaced O.E. gelimpan, gesceon, and M.E. befall. First record of happenstance is 1897, formed from happening + circumstance. Happening in the sense of "spontaneous event or display" is from 1959.

happy 1340, "lucky," from hap "chance, fortune" (see haphazard), sense of "very glad" first recorded c.1390. Ousted O.E. eadig (from ead "wealth, riches") and gesælig, which has become silly. O.E. bliðe "happy" survives as blithe. From Gk. to Ir., a great majority of the European words for "happy" at first meant "lucky." An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant "wise." Used in World War II and after as a suffix (e.g. bomb-happy, flak-happy) expressing "dazed or frazzled from stress." Happiness is first recorded 1530. Happy hour "early evening period of discount drinks and free hors-d'oeuvres at a bar" is first recorded 1961. Happy-go-lucky is from 1672. Happy as a clam (1636) was originally happy as a clam in the mud at high tide, when it can't be dug up and eaten.

exigency 1581, from M.Fr. exigence, from L.L. exigentia "urgency," from L. exigentem (nom. exigens), from exigere "to demand" (see exact).

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We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneious cries;
...And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

--page 70, from "Sunday Morning" by Wallace Stevens from
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

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